Ralls County Sheriff Robert Forney has responded to recent complaints that he is not performing his duties as his term in office winds down.
Although Forney acknowledged he has taken some time off recently while “looking for some new opportunities,” the sheriff says county residents are still being served.
“We’re still doing our job,” he said. “Every once in a while I’ll take a day off if I need to go out and look for something else, and that’s not uncommon. I don’t know of any sheriff or politician in office that’s there every day. Every once in a while I will take a day off, but the shift is always covered. If it’s not covered, I’m here.”
Forney says any trouble people might have contacting him is due to the off hours he has been working.
“I’ve been filling shifts at night and on weekends, and doing some other stuff we need to do during the day,” he said, adding that some part-time staff members have quit since the November election when Forney lost to Gerry Dinwiddie.
Late last month Bob See, Ralls County presiding commissioner, confirmed that the county commission had received complaints regarding the sheriff’s department. One dealt with Forney using a county vehicle while campaigning before the November election and addressing voters in his uniform. Citing the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association (MSA), Forney defended his actions.
“They’ve had classes that specifically said you could get in your patrol car, drive to a function, get out in uniform, speak and promote your office, yourself or another candidate while on duty, and it’s perfectly legal,” he said.
Kent Oberkrom, president of the MSA, confirmed that a recent interpretation of the Hatch Act, that details the political activities public servants are allowed to do, permits a sheriff to appear in uniform at a political function. Oberkrom said using a county vehicle while campaigning is more of an ethical matter than an MSA policy issue.
Earlier this week, Peggy Dodd, a Ralls County resident whose property a burglar attempted to break into on Nov. 17, reported that thieves recently tried to steal from four homes on Scotts Lane, which extends from Route O to Route T, east of U.S. 61 between Hannibal and New London.
“To our knowledge we only had one break-in over the weekend and I actually responded to that myself,” said the sheriff. “A garage was entered and two chain saws are missing. A suspicious vehicle has been seen in the area and we’ve conveyed that to Hannibal police and other agencies.”
Page 2 of 2 - Forney admits complaints about his performance are puzzling.
“Every once in a while we have a theft here. I don’t understand the purpose of this woman going after me. It doesn’t make much sense for them to harass me,” he said. “They need to look at the future and working together to prevent future crimes. Putting stuff in the paper just welcomes people in to do more crime. I don’t think that is a good deal.”
Dinwiddie, Ralls County’s sheriff-elect, assumes his duties in January.